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RIM adds VoIP digivoice calls to BBM youngster-messaging ware
Skype, Facetime ... the writing's on the wall
BlackBerry Messenger 7 will support VoIP calls as well as messaging, and is available now to download to BlackBerry OS 6 or better, with 5 to follow soon.
It's a beta version, but adds a Voice Call button to the BBM experience, when the other party has the software installed and is connected to a Wi-Fi network, instantly turning the company's hugely popular messaging platform into something which could seriously upset the network operators - that's if every other handset weren’t offering the same thing.
But adding VoIP to BBM is significant as it deals with the two big issues preventing VoIP from taking over the world: getting one's contacts into the same platform and ensuring they have enough connectivity to receive the call, both of which are addressed with their BlackBerry ID.
Users entering a BBM chat with a contact, as they already do, will simply see a Voice Call option if that user is home to audio contact, and users upgrade support for VoIP will spread, assuming they upgrade within the BlackBerry family of course.
This kind of behaviour can seriously upset network operators, which still make the vast majority of their revenue from voice calls, but with Apple pitching FaceTime and Microsoft finally integrating Skype into Windows Phone, it's way too late for the operators to complain.
RIM may be playing catch-up with Apple and Microsoft, but it gains from the loyalty of BBM users, the younger generation of which came for the free alternative to text message that BM offered, but these days are mainly hanging around 'cos that's where their mates still are.
Adding voice is significant to that market, and RIM needs to keep them onside for at least the next couple of months until its new BlackBerry 10 hardware goes on show. ®